Occasionally we meet individuals whose first response to our mentioning Tough Conversations is: “I was the one and only caregiver for my (fill in the blank: mother, father, grandparent, etc.)” “Do you have siblings?” we ask. Sometimes we hear no, other times, yes. If yes, “Weren’t you able to get their support, or access help from other sources?” is our next query. Again, sometimes yes, other times, no.
The bottom line among many families is that one adult child becomes ‘the one and only’ caregiver; the sole custodian of financial and health care responsibilities, or end-of-life and change-of-residence needs.
Some have nowhere else to turn; others call on social service agencies for assistance. One friend commented that she was so focused on caring for her parents, she never thought of asking others for help. As a result her memories of caring for her mother are filled with resentment, anger, and fatigue.
For those of you who are or were “the one and only” we invite you to share your insights of what it is (or was) like be a sole caregiver. There must be many of you flying alone. What can we learn from your experience? What advice, suggestions, or counsel would you share with others? What kinds of tough conversations do you wish had taken place but never did?
We hope you’ll share your thoughts about what it’s like to be ‘the one and only.’
Recognizing that the stress you are experiencing can sometimes lead to depression is the first step to preventing it — and burnout. To take that step, talk about your feelings, frustrations, and fears with the palliative care team’s social worker or mental health professional. Talking helps you understand what’s going on for you and for the person in your care. It helps you come to grips with the fact that you are not in total control of the situation.